MYSTERIOUS MONSTERY MALARCHY
A bit later in the day Tabitha and George sat watching their grandmother sip tea and slowly dunk her shortbread. George had counted seven white wispy hairs on her chin. It was another one of those days that went slowly and the pair kept thinking whether anyone would find their costume in the stump. Betty, Tabitha and George’s grandmother, was a lovely lively lady in her eighties. She chuckled again as she told them a story about her yoga class, where one of the old ladies went wrong in a pose and knocked all of the other oldies over. Betty sat giggling about the pile of pensioners on the floor. Tabitha and George found it funny too and the more their granny chuckled the more they giggled too. The thing is they would usually have laughed more but the problem was there was a huge grandfather clock behind Betty and with every tick they felt more excited about the adventure that was awaiting them. Even if there were no monsters it didn’t matter because they were going to roam around the forest in the most ridiculous monster outfit ever!
‘So what have my lovely grandchildren been up to lately?’ She asked offering them both another shortbread. ‘Nothing much grandma,’ they said in unison. Betty studied the pair of them in a ‘knowing grandmother’ kind of way. Their mother glanced at her children and shook her head suspiciously. ‘Tabitha has had a very interesting project at school. She had to make a monster costume for her drama class.’
‘Ooooh that does sound fun,’ Betty said perking up. ‘So what kind of monster did you make?’
Tabitha shrugged, ‘It was more of a dragon and we just used a lot of material and glued things to it like dolls’ eyes. It has back scales, horns and a trunk.’
George shifted awkwardly and then coughed. He didn’t want Tabitha to say too much because once she started she couldn’t stop.
‘We also made sure it had a very cool haircut,’ Tabitha beamed with excitement.
Betty sat back in her chair, stirred her tea and watched the tea-leaves swirl around. ‘Well I remember when I was young and came face to face with a monster.’
George and Tabitha sat up, and with their eyes wide, they glanced at each other. Their grandmother had seen a real monster? George didn’t believe it. Monsters weren’t real!
‘Would you like me to tell you about it?’ Betty relished her grandchildren’s reaction.
‘Wow! You saw a real monster?’ cried George. ‘But monsters aren’t real. They are made up to scare kids,’ he said purposely calming himself down.
‘I had thought that too… but oh my darling, they are real!’ Betty said with a glint in her eye.
‘Yes please tell us the story… I want to hear everything,’ Tabitha cried.
Tabitha’s mum and dad glanced at each other. Since when had Betty seen a monster? Why had she never told them before?
‘Okay my lovelies, you need to claim your supply of shortbread because I will have to concentrate as I tell the story.’ She lifted the plate and everyone quickly grabbed one.
Betty settled back into her seat as she thought back to when she was young. ‘Well I was about fifteen years old when this happened and it was when I had first met your grandad. We used to go and meet after school on the edge of the forest. We would talk for hours and spend time dreaming and holding hands. It was all very romantic.’
‘Did you kiss?’ Tabitha asked with a cheeky grin.
‘Tabitha it was a very different time then. Holding hands was a very nice way to spend time with the one that you loved.’ Betty replied, she had a slight flush in her cheeks.
‘Well, on that particular day your grandfather was late. We used to meet on a mossy fallen tree. Anyway we didn’t have mobile phones or all those technical gadgets you young ones wave around nowadays. Instead, you had to simply rely on a person turning up to a place when they said they would. Anyway, as I said Rupert was late, so I thought that I would have a little lie down on the fallen log. It was all mossy and soft and so very appealing. Strangely on that day I was wearing a long green coat. So I took off my green coat, arranged myself on the moss on the log. I then put the green coat over me. It was quite amazing how very similar the coat’s colour was to the moss. Anyway I laid there quietly until I heard a rustle. Usually I would have sat up but because I was comfortable and merging with the log I figured that whatever was in the hedge would not see me. I expected a deer or a horse to appear from the foliage but I was wrong.’ Betty paused and gazed at her grandchildren.
‘What was it?’ Tabitha said, hardly able to contain herself.
Betty shook her head. ‘It was a very tall monster.’
‘Come on Betty, stop pulling the grandkids’ legs,’ said their father.
Betty smiled, stood up and tottered over to her bookshelf. She pulled out her sketchbook and placed it on the coffee table. ‘I spent a lot of years drawing what I saw in the forest. I have seen all sorts; that there forest is a magical place. So here are some of the pictures of the creature. The group peered at the sketches and turned their heads to the side.’
‘It has huge teeth,’ said George.
‘Yes it had huge teeth, like tusks,’ Betty replied.
‘What is all the green stuff all over its body?’ asked Tabitha.
‘It was very similar to the lichen and moss that covers the trees. That way it could camouflage itself and blend in.’ Betty smiled mysteriously as she watched Tabitha’s enthralled expression.
‘Cool,’ said George considering how he could camouflage himself so he could monster watch, that was, if they existed and their grandmother wasn’t actually winding them up!
‘He had very kind eyes,’ said Betty as she thought back.
‘Did you scream?’ asked Tabitha.
‘I laid very quietly watching it,’ Betty replied. ‘I figured if I made any loud noises or sudden movements it might attack me.’
‘What was it doing?’ asked George.
‘It seemed to be foraging,’ Betty stared into space as she tried to remember the details.
‘What is foraging?’ asked Tabitha.
‘When you go searching for food from nature. Monsters don’t have supermarkets they have to live off the plants in the forest.’ Betty said.
‘Oh,’ said Tabitha. ‘So they don’t eat children?’
‘I think eating children is a possibility only when all the tasty things have been eaten. Children taste like farts to giants and monsters. So only if they were really hungry would they consider eating you.’ Betty had a knowing expression. Where had she found that out?
‘Why do children taste like farts?’ asked George finding it funny and repulsive at the same time.
‘All the strange food that children eat my darlings. It fills their system up with a green smog. As soon as a monster bites into them the flavour of rotten sprouts, foul eggs and rancid cabbage attack their taste buds and that stinky gas wafts up their nose. Would you want to eat that when you could dine on fresh vegetables and fresh food from the ground?’
Tabitha and George shook their heads. Both felt a sense of relief. They would only be eaten as a last resort. They both nibbled another shortbread each. If they were going to be eaten then they intended to be as putrid tasting as possible. Maybe they needed to eat some sauerkraut.
‘So grandma what happened? Did the monster see you?’ Tabitha sat forward on the couch.
‘Well it was going about its business when Rupert called my name through the forest. It stopped what it was doing and glanced around. As a precaution, it then went to the nearest tree, wrapped its arms around it and blended in. You would never have been able to tell there was a monster there. What was peculiar was, because I could see it, I could see where it was. Anyway Rupert came darting through the forest and stopped at the log. I pretended to be asleep.’
‘‘Darling, I am so sorry for being late,’ he gave me a hug and I sat up. We both sat on the log and I whispered to Rupert. ‘I know you might think this is strange but see that tree… well, there is a monster wrapped around it,’ I whispered.’’
‘Rupert gently stroked my hair and smiled. He assumed I was dreaming. Anyway we sat for a while watching the tree and noticed some fireflies flitting about. One landed right where the monster was hiding and from what I could gather, that firefly landed on its nose.’
‘‘Just wait,’ I said.’’
‘A moment later there was a loud sneeze. The monster glanced over its shoulder and pretended to hide. The face that Rupert pulled was wonderful. It was a grimace combined with intended action. Yet, the first thing he did was try and protect me. He leapt off the log and stood between me and the monster. ‘Come out right now! We saw you!’ He declared.’
‘The monster stayed hugging the tree. Rupert picked up a stick and went over to the tree and prodded the monster’s bottom.’
‘‘Rupert! that isn’t very kind. He is just trying to hide so that he doesn’t scare us,’ I said summoning Rupert back to the log.’’
‘‘Well it doesn’t scare me! I think that monster needs to explain itself! Hiding in the forest when innocent girls could be attacked,’ cried Rupert standing his ground.’
‘‘Stop poking me in the bottom,’ the monster growled, grabbed the stick and snapped it.’
‘Rupert paused and took on a fighting stance. His fists were arranged in front of his face and he was ready to box. The monster turned and shook its head in dismay.’
‘‘This is why we hide from the humans.’ He made his way over and sat on a log in front of me. ‘You assume that we want to eat you or attack you. All we want is a peaceful life, some nice food and a bit of fun in the forest. We only scare you to keep you away from us. Now please leave me alone!’ The monster said in an authentic and weary tone.’
‘Rupert was silent, the monster was actually quite a nice sweet creature. Its eyes were kind, admittedly its teeth were huge. After a while Rupert dropped his fists. ‘But… I assumed monsters wanted to scare us and hurt us.’’
‘The monster sighed and shook his head. ‘We want you to think that because then you will leave us alone. We love the forest, we live in the forest and you humans have always hunted us so you can put us on display in your stupid circuses. So we will do what we have to do to keep you away from us. That is it. Now I am going to go and make my dinner.’’
‘That is when I stood up, made my way over and stood before him. ‘I think you’re lovely. I am so glad I saw you. What is your name?’’
‘The monster smiled and studied me, ‘My name is Gnasher.’’
‘I held out her hand ‘My name is Betty.’’
‘‘Nice to monster meet you,’ Gnasher replied.’
‘Rupert stepped forwards, ‘My name is Rupert. Nice to meet you Gnasher. I am sorry I poked you in the bottom with the stick. I just wanted to protect Betty.’’
‘‘There are lots of ways to protect those you love, but poking a monster in the bottom with a stick isn’t the most obvious one,’ Gnasher replied thoughtfully. ‘I do accept your apology.’ The monster smiled with all his gnashy teeth. ‘I have seen you two here a lot and if I have seen you then all the other monsters have also seen you. Always pay attention to the forest because there is a lot of magic here.’ He stood up, ‘It is time for me to go. So goodbye and nice to monster meet you both.’’
‘With that he ruffled Rupert’s hair and patted me on the shoulder. He then stepped through the foliage and disappeared.’
Tabitha, George and their parents were silent and in awe. How cool that their grandmother had talked to a proper monster. George was thoughtful, maybe she had dreamt it, but it didn’t matter because the story was very exciting.
Tabitha glanced at the clock, as much as she wanted to hear more of her grandmother’s stories there were monsters to discover, a costume to wear and a dance to create.